Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Cuba’s Trans-National Society & the Omissions of Politics

Cuba's Trans-National Society & the Omissions of Politics
June 22, 2015
Haroldo Dilla Alfonso

HAVANA TIMES — If I were to say the most dynamic part of Cuban society
lives, not on the island, but across the world (particularly South
Florida), I wouldn't be saying anything new. This is true economically
and demographically – much of the population in Cuba relies on
remittances and, in the midst of generalized poverty, refuses to have
children – but it is also true culturally and intellectually.

Though a significant number of the island's intellectuals look down on
Cuban cultural production abroad, we should acknowledge that the
diaspora has had a highly valuable intellectual production, be it
because a generation of émigrés with their own conceptions has emerged
or because it has harbored émigrés (the banished, exiled and deported)
who took with them the best of Cuba's (trans) national thought. Because
of this, I am always put off by that frankly resentful debate about
where the cradle and child of Cuban culture are to be located – a rather
archaic discussion for a society that is eminently transnational.

It is regrettable that none of the political sectors that co-exist in
Cuba have a clear body of ideas about the transnational condition of
Cuban society, let alone proposals for policies aimed at overcoming the
rift created decades ago by circumstance and maintained for half a
century by yet another mechanism for the domination and castration of
Cuban society.

We can of course expect nothing of the sort from the Castro elite and
the pro-government political field it rules over. For this elite,
émigrés continue to represent a source of revenue and, at the same time,
an ideological scarecrow. Unable to continue to represent this community
as wholly unpatriotic, it has sought rather to split it up, selling the
image of good émigrés – the true representatives of Cubanness – and bad
ones, where the foul beasts of the pro-embargo Right are gathered. This
is the reason it was particularly careful to change next to nothing
having to do with émigrés in its recent migratory law reform, allowing
these to visit the country of their births for a mere few extra days,
extending the time they can legally remain abroad and affording them the
sad privilege of being able to ask the government for mercy in order to
return to the island definitively. To accept that émigrés are citizens
with rights would prove fatal to the concept that regards citizenship as
a measure of one's political loyalty to the system. Consequently, it
would be inadmissible for the authoritarian model that continues to
prevail in the country.

What's surprising is that no substantial political conception of this
exists in the other two political fields.

The opposition, for instance, barely touches the issue and, when it
does, it does not manage to offer anything coherent. During a meeting in
Mexico sponsored by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation – were the main
leaders of existing opposition groups gathered – they made a point of
specifying that "(…) it is up to Cubans to undertake the actions that
will lead us to overcome Cuba's problems, those who live on the island
in particular (…)" and of assigning the diaspora a secondary role. In
this, they certainly appeared to share the ideas (probably not
intentionally) of the speech delivered by the sacked Cuban Foreign
Minister Perez Roque, who, in 2003, stated that the country's problems,
"by nature, are the sole concern of those who live, work and struggle in
the homeland."

The tolerated critics of the system (in the journals Temas and Cuba
Posible, formerly Espacio Laical), whose sociological makeup is
dominated by progressive and left-wing intellectuals who are always
willing to offer their opinions and write articles – have remained
deathly quiet on the matter, to the point that, now fully immersed in
the debate surrounding Cuba's constitutional reform, they barely address
the fact that a million and a half Cubans currently live in a kind of
legal limbo where the island is concerned and are denied any rights on
it, even the right that visitors from around the world have to purchase
a tourist visa for a handful of dollars.

To sum up, we émigrés constitute a rather inconvenient topic for the
whole of Cuba's political spectrum, where silence and invisibility
proves more profitable than critical analysis, despite the fact that all
of these political sectors – government, tolerated critics and
full-fledged opponents – have interlocutors and allies beyond the sea
(from La tarde se mueve to the Cuban American National Foundation, to
OnCuba), as they are ultimately also part of our transnational society.

To address the issue of Cuba's transnationality and the rights of
émigrés is not to flirt with like-minded émigrés or to publish articles
portraying them as altruistic Cubans. It is a question of directly and
frankly tackling the issue of the rights of the hundreds of thousands of
Cuban citizens that are scattered around the world, and calling for a
political definition of our society that acknowledges its transnational
nature and eliminates, once and for all, the perverse equivalence
between citizenship and political loyalty maintained by the Cuban

This is a complex matter that will require a series of steps:

- The creation of an atmosphere of trust through specific actions, such
as broadening the calls for participation at national conferences, both
in terms of the kinds of participants and the agenda to be discussed,
the promotion of cultural and social exchange and the rectification of
the discourse related to migrants.
- Adjusting the price of consular and migratory services to average
international standards.
- Recognizing freedom of movement as a non-negotiable civil right.
- The constitutional enshrinement of double-citizenship.
- The gradual restoration of the civil and political rights of émigrés
who decide to retain their Cuban citizenship and, initially, the right
to return to, live in and retain properties in Cuba.
Is it convenient, acceptable and ethically permissible to continue to
remain silent on this issue?

Source: Cuba's Trans-National Society & the Omissions of Politics -
Havana Times.org - http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=112109

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